Vancouver Coastal Health offers open mic night in conjunction with Eating Disorders Awareness Week
Freya Wasteneys, Features Editor
Mel Gibbons, Production Manager
Eating disorders come in many forms, and many go undiagnosed or untreated. Across Canada, the National Initiative for Eating Disorders estimates that upward of one million people are affected, and a Canada-wide surveillance study reveals that disorders are on the rise among youth, with many exhibiting signs of disordered eating. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the two most common forms of eating disorders, but each disorder can range in severity, and many more show signs of poor body image. In fact, in British Columbia, the same survey revealed that by 18 years of age, 80 per cent of girls of normal height and weight reported that they would like to weigh less, which paired with other mental disorders can be a precursor to disordered eating.
In an effort to battle this pervasive mental illness, Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) will run from Feb. 1-7. It aims to promote more awareness and support to those lacking the resources under this year’s theme “Eating Disorders Can’t Afford to Wait”. Utilizing #EDAW2019 and #ShowPurpleLove, groups across the country will be participating in educational activities, and sporting the colour purple.
The event organizer, Lisa Shields, is a therapist who works with adults dealing with eating disorders at Vancouver Coastal Health. “I believe strongly in the healing power of artistic expression and finding voice through the process of creativity,” said Shields. She went on to note that this, paired with early intervention and support can be some of the most effective ways to deal with eating disorders, but the cause can be very subjective. “There’s no one cause for someone to develop an eating disorder. It is a complex interaction between multiple factors,” she said, pointing to biological, psychological, socio-cultural, predisposed, and precipitating factors to name just a few.
To kick off the week, Vancouver Coastal Health Eating Disorders Program has partnered with the EDAW to organize “Open Mic Night: What I Wish I Knew”, which provides a safe space for participants of all ages to creatively share their experience through poetry, music or spoken word. Held on Jan. 31 from 5-8 pm, the event is now in its second year. Last year, 20 people attended, with six people presenting their own work, and several pieces submitted anonymously. This year, the interest has doubled.
Held at Hood 29 on Main Street, the event is free, and open to all ages. Shields emphasizes that the event is “recovery positive” and is an inclusive space. Of course, in a wellness-based culture that often places an emphasis on appearance and weight, disordered eating behaviours are often perpetuated and complicate recovery. “The feedback we had from last year’s event was very positive. The individuals who participated expressed gratitude for having a safe space to express thoughts and feelings,” said Shields. “It’s really an opportunity to be creative and be heard in a supportive environment.”